The End of Greek Athletics in Late Antiquity (Greek Culture in the Roman World)
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This book presents the first comprehensive study of how and why athletic contests, a characteristic aspect of Greek culture for over a millennium, disappeared in late antiquity. In contrast to previous discussions, which focus on the ancient Olympics, the end of the most famous games is analysed here in the context of the collapse of the entire international agonistic circuit, which encompassed several hundred contests. The first part of the book describes this collapse by means of a detailed analysis of the fourth- and fifth-century history of the athletic games in each region of the Mediterranean: Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Italy, Gaul and northern Africa. The second half continues by explaining these developments, challenging traditional theories (especially the ban by the Christian emperor Theodosius I) and discussing in detail both the late antique socio-economic context and the late antique perceptions of athletics.
growing appreciation of military heroism and of physical beauty. The classical Greek discourse was far better suited to express these new values than the prevailing Christian one. Educated hellenophile aristocrats imagined themselves in the world of the Second Sophistic, by performing or even role-playing traditional Greekness. This twelfth-century renaissance is mostly documented through works of literature, which naturally gives the impression that it was a strictly intellectual pursuit, but
admittedly an odd one, for Pausanias tells how the boxing ﬁnal between Sarapammon and Deidas was tainted by bribery. These men may, however, have left more glorious memories in Asia. After all they were the best boxers of their generation – they would not have made it to the Olympic ﬁnals otherwise. The other duos on the mosaic were also identiﬁed as famous athletes, but their names are not legible today – for soon after its discovery, the mosaic was stolen. Above the central rectangle, and to
cosmopolitan than the metropoleis.81 Antinoopolis had had a monumental circus since the second century, but this was built for the Megala Antinoeia and later also used for Kapitolia.82 Egypt did not have an architectural tradition of stadia, because originally only Alexandria had athletic games. When Hadrian endowed the city with sports infrastructure suitable for the athletic and equestrian events of an agon, he opted for a grand circus in the Roman style.83 Oxyrhynchus had a hippodrome quarter
2. Cf. Geer 1935: 216. 8 Caldelli 1993a: 21–24. Bohne 2011: K2–14, K28–43, K64. Dig. 3.2.4. This excerpt from Ulpian refers to Sabinus and Cassius, jurists active under Tiberius. Herz 1996: 257. For the dates of the games of Tarentum in January of the winter following the Olympics and the Kapitolia in May/June of the same year, see Petzl and Schwertheim 2006: letter 2, ll. 63–64. Crossing the Mediterranean in midwinter was generally avoided. Cf. Vegetius, De re militari 4.39. The agonistic
this as a nominative with dative praesinae (factio). Because the function of the dative remains unclear, I take it as two exclamations in the vocative. Athletics outside the agonistic circuit 149 Figure 5a The bronze Kovacs vase with scenes of circus athletes (sixth century). scene, he kicks his opponent in the face. Although there are obvious similarities to earlier depictions of athletes (the nudity, the money bag, the victors identiﬁed with palm branch or crown, the manner of indicating